One of the world’s two double-landlocked countries, Uzbekistan is a fascinating country where Soviet-era hangover merges with Uzbek Islam seamlessly. Uzbekistan is a country of sublime beauty and warm, friendly people. With breath-taking natural beauty, it is one of most enjoyable of the countries in the world.
However it is the Uzbekistan’s cities that are the most compelling destinations in the country. These cities are impressively individual. If you are visiting Uzbekistan first time, you must visit the cities of Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and Tashkent in your itinerary. Of these, the first three were important stop-offs for traders on the famed ancient highway called Silk route.
If you'd like to explore Uzbekistan’s architectural treasures, Bukhara is the place to be. Bukhara still has the appearance – and ambience – of a medieval city. This fifth-largest city in Uzbekistan is a place of antiquities.
Your lasting impression of Bukhara will be of the imposing fortress known as 'The Ark', within which you will find beautiful mosque, a sprawling collection of amazing buildings. The mausoleum of Ismail Samani, a powerful emir of the Samanid empire ((819-999), Chor Minor mosque, built in 1807, are another famous attractions in Bukhara. The atmospheric city of Bukhara is a favourite of the shoppers.
Destroyed by an earthquake in the 1966 and reconstructed as a showcase for the best of Soviet architecture, Tashkent boasts several gardens and wide boulevards. The 16th century mausoleum of the Muslim scholar Kaffal-Shashi is a prime attraction of the city. Amir Timur Square and the Kukeldash mosque are some of the sights of interest in Tashkent.
Once one of the most powerful cities in the world, Samarkand is known for its Islamic architecture. Today the place seems to exist suspended in time somewhere between the medieval and the modern.
The heart of Samarkand is the Registan, described by Indian viceroy George Curzon as 'the noblest public square in the world'. Two kilometres from the Registan is the Gur-e Amir mausoleum, where megalomaniac Mangol leader Timur Lang or Tamerlane, who lived in 14th century, is buried. The tombstone is considered the largest single block of jade stone in the world.
Rebuilt seven times during the course of history, Khiva can be negotiated on foot. A living museum, the Unesco protected Khiva was founded in the in the 6th century and was a vital Silk Road stop-off for the traders. The towering fortresses of Khiva is one of the most popular attractions of Khiva. Covered in patterned, glazed tiles Kalta Minor Minaret is another historical treasure in Khiva’s possession.
Legend has it that it was built by Mohammed Amin Khan, the famous ruler of Khiva, who intended to construct the structure so high that it would offer views all the way to Bukhara 400km to the southeast. However, that was not to be. The construction stopped after his death in 1855. Most of the important monuments of the city are located in the inner city, known as the Itchan Kala.